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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Court Strikes Down Prop 8

Although the Constitution permits communities to enact most laws they believe to be desirable, it requires that there be at least a legitimate reason for the passage of a law that treats different people differently. There was no such reason that Proposition 8 could have been enacted.

Proposition 8 serves no purpose, and has no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California, and to officially reclassify their relationships and families as inferior to those of opposite-sex couples. The Constitution simply does not allow for laws of this sort.
A three-judge panel of the federal Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit today struck down California's gay-marriage ban as violating the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U. S. Consitution.  The court's opinion was written by Judge Stephen Reinhardt, joined by Judge Michael Daly Hawkins.

The San Jose Mercury News reports:
Judge N. Randy Smith dissented, saying there were "legitimate governmental interests" in restricting the definition of marriage to a union between a man and woman.

Proposition 8 backers can now ask the 9th Circuit to rehear the case with an 11-judge panel, or proceed directly to the Supreme Court. Smith's dissent could be a strong indicator there will be some support within the court to take a second look at the case.

The appeals court also rejected the argument that Walker's ruling should be scrapped because he did not disclose he was in a long-term same-sex relationship while he was handling the case. Smith joined in that part of the ruling.

As a result of the continued legal wrangling, same-sex marriages are not expected to resume in California any time soon, with further appeals likely to stretch at least into next year.

In the ruling, Reinhardt, considered one of the nation's most liberal judges, relied heavily on the U.S. Supreme Court's 1996 decision striking down a Colorado law that stripped gays and lesbians of protections against discrimination there.

The ruling, however, was focused on California's circumstances, notably the fact Proposition 8 took away the right of same-sex couples to marry that had been established in a 2008 California Supreme Court decision.

The 9th Circuit did not declare a fundamental right for same-sex couples to marry, a broader definition that could have undercut bans on gay marriage in four other western states.
The Los Angeles Times makes this observation:
The 2-1 decision by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals will have limited effect outside California because it is based on voter repeal of a right a minority already enjoyed.

"The people may not employ the initiative power to single out a disfavored group for unequal treatment and strip them, without a legitimate justification, of a right as important as the right to marry," the court said.

Santa Clara University constitutional law Professor Margaret M. Russell said the ruling overturned Proposition 8 on “the narrowest grounds possible,” which makes it less likely that the U.S. Supreme Court would review it.

“It is very much anchored in the role of Proposition 8 in California’s history,” the professor said, adding that it would have little effect outside of California.

The court will not allow same-sex marriages to begin again in California until the deadline has passed for proponents of Prop 8 to appeal today's ruling or an appeal has been denied, a process that could take months, according to the folks at Prop 8 Trial Tracker.

Full text of the ruling below.

10-16696 #398_Decision

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